Life at UC Berkeley never stands still. With over 35,000 students around the world and a vibrant urban setting, it is no wonder the campus community talking about a "fear of missing out". Last fall, I went to UC Berkeley for an one-semester exchange program, which let me realize that keeping pace with the times, getting out of the comfort zone and taking on new challenges are rugged yet worthy.
Tiantian in Berkeley campus
Curriculum learning is always the core part of schooling. The Berkeley Global Access program (BGA program) entails us enrolling in at least 12 major and 2 extension units in one semester. You can choose the courses that interest you the most and best fit with your academic goals. To be honest, at the very beginning, it’s no easy task for non-native speakers like me. When I took the first Auditing class at Haas School of Business, I could only understand half of what the professor said. When it came to the mid-terms or finals, things got trickier. Crowded library was stuffed with the smartest students, and pulling an all-nighter before the finals was nothing new. No one wants to lag behind. I still remember clearly the days and nights that I spent with friends struggling with dues, the experience of which is tough but worthwhile.
LEP friends getting together
Schooling is definitely not limited to study. Outside of the class, you can spend your free time exploring the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, participating in student groups, networking with your classmates and professors, receiving guidance from your peer mentors, and immersing yourself in this vibrant, inclusive and multicultural environment. Social activities are essential parts of western universities. From performing arts to public services to gender and identity, there are hundreds of student organizations with different focus to connect your passion with campus experience. You can attend a public event centered on a thought-provoking subject or career advancement, or you can also join the Acappella chorus groups and sing together in front of the Sather Gate every noon. For international students, there are also several events and excursions where students come together to meet and interact while learning about local culture. For example, the activities in LEP (Language Exchange Program) include in-house socials hosted in the Student Learning Center as well as excursions to various cultural activities on campus and around the community during specific festivals like Halloween, Lantern festival and Christmas.
Feel free to join any one that appeals to you. After all, student organizations are not only a place to share interests in common, but a melting pot to foster meaningful connections within and across communities. By deepening our knowledge of one another, regardless of color, gender or creed, we seek to strengthen the common ground that unites us and breaks down the barriers among us. When we communicate with students from other cultural backgrounds, different opinions in a specific definition or question is hardly surprising. Try to share the air and provide enough respect. In doing so, we re-invigorate our respect and commitment to our shared humanity.
WHU girls in Las Vegas
When we are situated in an unfamiliar environment, especially a non-native context, things seem gloomy at first. We’re well-protected by our parents with their resources, unconditional love and care. But as soon as we board that plane to the “Neverland”, we are on our own. Nobody wants to hear about your repetitive complaints and incapability. Studying abroad is not only about studying in a new language environment, but about living independently. When it comes to household routine like cooking and chores, you just have to search the information online and thrive on your own. I really appreciate this exchange opportunity before I totally step out of the ivory tower. I always believe that getting out of the comfort zone drives you to figure out how to cope with discomfort, uncertainty, and resistance. However, being a grown-up is never easy, we have to make the first move towards unknown and then it will gradually become your comfort zone. As long as you do that, you will naturally expand your comfort zone, and that is the lifelong process of exploration, and self-actualization.
Edited by Liu Xiaojing, Wei Yena, Wei Junyi, Zheng Yayun & Hu Sijia
Photo by Yang Tiantian